Many organisations approach developing an innovation culture by looking at highly innovative companies, examining what is in place and then trying to develop these attributes or abilities within their own organisations. The focus of this this type of approach is on artefacts of the culture rather than the culture itself; it’s typically a flawed approach because the artefacts are outputs of the cultural drivers and blockers which exist in the organisation.
There are so many books, memes and catch-phrases which articulate the typical platitudes which supposedly underpin an ‘innovation culture’. These include (but are certainly not limited to): “create an environment in which it is safe-to-fail”; or “ensure everyone is sufficiently challenged”; or “create positive relationships between employees and their supervisors“; the list goes on. However, anyone who has worked in an established organisation (as distinct from a new start-up) knows that you can’t simply “create an environment in which it is safe-to-fail” by telling people that it is now safe to fail!
So how do you create a ‘safe to fail’ environment in an established organisation, for example? You do it with strategic alignment; and by implementing appropriate structural elements such as valid innovation metrics and processes; and with capability development which focuses on the skills required to manage the risks of failures without stifling innovation. Culture is an output of the drivers and blockers which exist within the strategies, structures and capabilities of the organisation. An innovation culture can be surprisingly easy to develop when all of the drivers are in place and all of the blockers are removed. It’s just a matter of understanding and focusing on the drivers and blockers, rather than on the artefacts.
If you are looking for a good place to make a start: identify any items which are blocking innovation in your organisational strategy; identify any elements within your structures which block innovation (such as specific metrics or resourcing structures); and then identify any capability deficiencies which block innovation. You have now made a start on an initial list of innovation culture blockers! Begin removing these blockers and you will see cultural change beginning to take place! There are obviously also many drivers of an innovation culture (drivers – not artefacts!) but more on that in a future Cuttlebutt. If you would like some more information on this topic, be sure to download our white paper or touch base with us for a chat!